Saturday, January 31, 2015

fingerjointing boxes and small chests...

This morning in the wood shop I made a new jig for routing over-sized finger joints for large boxes and small chests. It is simply made and works on the order of the Gifkins Jig. The matching parts are mounted on opposite sides of the body of the jig, and a router bit with guide bearing follows the shape of the fingers. If the fingers are cut uniformly and mounted squarely to the body of the jig, the parts fit perfectly to each other. You can see the results. These finger joints are 7/8 in. wide and are cut with a 3/4 in. router bit. The jig will accurately join boards as wide as 15 in.

On the subject of education, I learned that this blog is being used as a resource for a course on the history of manual and technical arts training. The course site for that upper level class is a great resource page for those of us who share a common interest in allowing manual arts to be restoreded in our nation's schools. The course is at Ball State University and maintained by professor Richard Seymour. TEDU 690.

Make, fix and create...

backward Bloom...

The following is from InformEd, an online commentary for educators, an article on Bloom's Taxonomy that I'd been asked to reference in the blog. I've done it, but not in the way they intended.
"Broken down into pieces, anyone can understand the basics of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Even though Bloom himself used heavy academic language to create his Taxonomy, most of it makes a lot of sense. The word taxonomy means classifications or structures. When broken into its three parts, the categories seem almost simple.
  1. First, there’s the cognitive domain made up of the intellect where knowledge is stored and thinking takes place.
  2. Then, the affective domain embodies feelings, emotions, and behaviors giving us attitudes.
  3. Finally, the psychomotor domain consists of skills or tasks people do manually.
According to Bloom, each level must be mastered before graduating to the next. So, each category contains various levels within, becoming more challenging when moving forward."
This order of domains may seem quite rational and all well and good if looking at things from the conventional academic perspective. From the view of learning presented by the hands it's backwards. Early educators like Comenius, Pestalozzi, Froebel and Dewey, and educational psychologists like William James would have noted that the "psychomotor domain" is the point from which learning is launched, and that the affective domain provides through interest, the foundation for intellectualized exploration. In schools, the common approach is cart before horse.

We make huge mistakes in American education by failing to note the natural order of human development. We learn best by doing. As I've said before, the principles of educational Sloyd would be far more useful to educators than Bloom's Taxonomy. According to those principles, learning should  start with the interests of the child and thence move forward from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract.

Education has become disembodied... a ghost of what it could be if the hands were involved in it. Turning the ghost into real life is where the arts can come into play. Robert Keable Row in the Educational Meaning of Manual Arts and Industries, 1909 wrote:
"A study of the art of primitive peoples shows us that one form of art invariably begins with an attempt to decorate an article that has been constructed for some practical purpose. This seems to be a natural sequence. When one gets control of a practical activity the aesthetic impulse seeks its opportunity, its medium, for expression as an accompaniment of the practical. The utilitarian product expresses the purpose of the worker; the decorative element expresses the emotional attitude. This feeling may be pride in the result of the labor, or in ownership of the product, of a sense of joy in contemplation of what seems beautiful in decoration itself."
Make, fix and create...

Friday, January 30, 2015

every production of art...

Here in Eureka Springs we are in the discussion stage of launching a cooperative gallery for artisans. In order to bring to light the values inherent in such things, I quote the following from Leo Tolstoi:
"In order to define art exactly, we must first of all cease to look upon it as a means of gratification, and consider art as one of the conditions of human life. Considering art in this way, we cannot but see that art is one of the means of communication of people with one another.

"Every production of art brings it to pass that the recipient enters into a certain kind of relation with the person who produces or produced that object of art and all of those who, at the same time with him, before, or after him, receive or will receive the same artistic impression.

"As speech, which conveys peoples' thoughts and experiences, serves as a means of uniting peoples, so art acts in exactly the same way. The characteristic of this kind of communication, distinguishing it from communication by means of words, consists in this, that by words one person conveys to another his thoughts, while by art people convey to one another their feelings.-- "What is Art", Leo Tolstoi
National Geographic magazine this month addresses traumatic brain injury, and the cover image, and many of the images inside are of masks designed by injured veterans to illustrate their feelings about circumstances that cannot be readily seen from the outside.

Every piece of art, every production of art brings us more closely together and helps us to explain things to each other.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, January 29, 2015


I wanted to make wooden squares for those students who want them for their tool boxes. These are easy to make by cutting a slot mortise on the end of a block of wood for the blade to fit. It is important to use a very accurate square to check to make sure the blade is aligned squarely in the slot as it is glued in place.

Is this as useful as a factory made steel square? It can be, and its light weight means that if it is dropped, it is not as likely to hurt a toe, or bend from impact with the hard floor. The great thing of course is that it costs almost nothing, and students can help in the making of it.

Today in the wood shop, some of my students worked on the lathe, and a new student was able to turn wood for the first time. One made a tool box for his father. His dad is a nurse, and like carpenters, he has his necessary set of tools. What working father could ask for a more thoughtful gift?

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

tools and tool boxes

Yesterday in woodshop, my 4th, 5th and 6th grade students made tool boxes. My 1st and second grade students made wooden mallets and will begin tool boxes next week. The idea I have is that they should be able to do home work. I am also working on the design of a small tool box that would serve also as a device to hold wood as it is being cut.

Readers should know about some bargains when it comes to equipping tool boxes for student use. Handi saws are available from Amazon for 6.95 including both fine and coarse cut blades. It's the one I'll suggest my students add to their tool boxes. The blade is rather short, but it will cut wood.

Common eggbeater drills are available from eBay for as low as $10.00 plus postage. Add a hammer, a tape measure, a shop made square and a wooden mallet. These tools will fit in the tool box and leave room for still more, like screwdrivers and pliers and the other tools children need for fixing things and for taking things apart.

Our students at all grades are studying citizenship, and there is a close association between being a citizen and being a craftsman. Each is an expression of deeply held personal values, and each, when rightly practiced carries an understanding of commitment to others and to self.
A short article about the Wisdom of the Hands program has been published on the National Association of Independent Schools website:

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 26, 2015

tools and tool boxes...

My first and second grade students are very interested in having their own tools to keep at home, so this week I plan to have them make wooden mallets (a project they requested) and a tool box to keep small tools in. So today I will prepare the materials. I'll use pine 1 x 6's for the bottoms and ends, hardwood octagonal pieces for the handles and resawn 2x4 stock for the sides. Resawing the sides at 7/16 in. will make the tool boxes lighter in weight, easier to nail, and less expensive to build. Along with the tool boxes when they are sent home, I'll send  a list of tools that the parents might buy to allow the child to do "homework." That will give me the excuse to develop a resource list for the blog. Some of the additional tools we can make in wood shop.

A reader asked about the bench hook used in my video on making sloyd trivets.

The illustration I provided Woodwork Magazine for their article is shown above. You may click on it to see it in a larger size.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, January 25, 2015


This week at the Eureka Spring School of the Arts, the Blackmsith Organization of Arkansas built a bloomery for making their own iron from ore. It is a rather small device made from clay and the lengthy process should deliver about 70 lbs. of steel. The ore and charcoal came from Arkansas. The amount of sustained heat requires a huge amount of charcoal, and as this sort of thing is rare, even among blacksmiths, there was a large group in attendance and manning the works. As some tended the furnace, others participated in blacksmithing demonstrations at our coal forge and using "Big Blu" our new power hammer.

In the early days of iron making, huge tracts of forests were laid bare to make charcoal. When the forests were depleted and no fuel was readily available the making of iron would move to another location where forest resources were available. Only one of the members had ever attended the making of iron before. Thanks to ESSA and the BOA (Blacksmith Organization of Arkansas) a few more folks have participated in this arcane art.

A larger version of an iron smelter is shown here. It is now a roadside attraction in Sweden on the road north from Mora. Feeding this furnace would have required the clearing of thousands of acres of forest to make charcoal.

Unfortunately, a hole was punctured in the BOA bloomery during the process. It had to be temporarily delayed as the fix was made. That may have  led to a long night tending the fire.

In my own shop I finished my own four position router table for making my production boxes. This router table will allow me to keep the the fences and router bits for fitting box parts set at close tolerances, and will allow me to fill small orders in a more timely fashion without maintaining a large inventory of finished work.

The knobs shown at left are for locking fences in place and were made with commercially made maple knobs and t-nuts. The maple knobs were drilled for the body of the t-nut and the prongs to fit. Epoxy glue locks the t-nuts permanently in place.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Boom whackers

Yesterday as I was attending a staff development meeting at Clear Spring School, a local composer and pianist Ellen Foncannon began working with our younger students during the school's Friday afternoon club time.

Let's not forget that instrumental music is one of those hands-on activities that directly impact learning, as well as the development of character and intellect. As we sat in our meeting, we watched our children's marching band performance.

Boomwhackers are tuned plastic tubes. They are an inexpensive percussive instruments that can be used in performance. What could be more fun than beating on a fence post with musical glee?

In my woodshop yesterday, I wrestled with a simple electrical problem made worse by the fact that access to the wiring was through ports cut in the top of my four router router table, a newly finished addition to my box making process. I finally discovered that one of the switches was faulty, and now that all routers in the system can be plugged in and operated by outside switches, I can finish it today.

On the SWEPCO front, we learned that we did more than simply stop one massive power line. In light of SWEPCO's retreat from building the power line through us, the Arkansas Public Service Commission rejected AEP/SWEPCO's application to launch a new corporation in the state, Southwest Transco, that would be used as a vehicle to build a large network of extra high voltage power lines throughout Arkansas. The APSC ruling was on January 2, just three days after SWEPCO posted a letter of withdrawal from their application to trash the Ozarks with an unnecessary power line. I have asked that SWEPCO award my organization Save the Ozarks, 12 million dollars in damages. That would be only 10 percent of their proposed project costs, and less than 2 percent of what my organization saved Arkansas ratepayers.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, January 23, 2015

toddlers in the wood shop?

When my daughter was two, I was always nervous having her in the wood shop. At the time, I was in full production mode, had written no books, and the place was always full of projects, that presented a level of risk. Even a board leaning against the lumber rack could present huge danger to an unwary child. Anyone with a 2 year old knows they require a lot of attention, and while parents and grandparents will "baby proof" a home to assure child safety, it is very hard to baby proof a shop.

Still, it is important for children to be witnesses of their parents involvement in the real world and carefully monitored forays into the creative wood shop are important, even for the very youngest child.

A reader, Nick, asked the following:
I've been following your blog, Wisdom of the hands, for a while now, and greatly enjoy your articles.

As the father of a 2 year old, and also a hobbyist woodworker, I am curious if there are any projects/exercises you would recommend for a child this young? Most of what I've seen on your blog appears to be aimed more at grade school aged kids, and the same with most of what I can find published online from Sloyd. He's not ready for a handsaw or chisel yet, and at this point all I can really think of is giving him some scraps & a bottle of glue, and letting him make a mess of things. Other than that he's very good at "unsweeping" the plane shavings in my shop and spreading them evenly across the floor with the small broom I bought him and hung on the wall low enough for him to reach.

I couldn't find anything in your blog about children this young, but I would venture to suggest this could be an excellent topic for a book, and I'm sure other woodworkers with small children would also be interested in this as well.

Any guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated as I am not sure what would be appropriate for a 2 year old in my shop.
What a special gift it can be to share what you love with a new generation. And it would be a good topic for a book.

As Nick noticed with his son, two is a bit young for making much more than a mess of things. When my daughter was two, my wife and I made chairs and a craft table where my daughter could work with playdough. She also started playing with blocks that could be stacked. Froebel’s block sets can be easily made, starting with gift number 2 and introduced at age two, progressing to more complicated sets over time, and only after the design limitations of each has been reached. At age three my daughter began playing with scraps in my shop. I had a low table where she could take the odd shaped cutoffs from the things I made and glue them into things that only she knew the meaning of.

At four, you might consider carefully introducing your son to various tools, small hand saws, hammers, and drills. Also at 4 or 5, introduce him to your use of drawings in your work, and give him the basic drawing tools, square, compass, ruler and pencils. It is easy to do all that stuff with an iPad, but the real tools are more tactile and give the body more of a sense of things. By ages 4 and 5 he will also be ready for some of Froebel’s drawing tools, consisting of small triangles of wood, sticks for laying out designs, and for weaving.These are great things to work with the child. when my daughter was 3, I would join her at her play table, each of us "crafting" with the same materials. Pipe cleaners were a particular amount of fun

Also, at age 5, get yourselves two very sharp knives. Whittling is best when the child has received some instruction in the use of a knife. Whittling together helps because it gives the opportunity to discuss proper safety of others as well.

At age 4 you can do collaborative projects, and at age 5 children can be encouraged to do much more of the work, with you serving as a watchful companion to serve the safety angle or the third hand when needed to hold something being nailed. I find my role to be that of cheerleader when working with kids on hard projects. They may complain, and then I ask, “Would you prefer that I give you something easy to do?” They assure me that they like hard work.

In any case, I hope this helps Nick and others to feel confident as we introduce children to the joy of woodworking.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, January 22, 2015


It is certain that the child's attitude towards work represents a vital instinct; for without work his personality cannot organise itself and deviates from the normal lines of its construction. Man builds himself through working. Nothing can take the place of work, neither physical well-being nor affection, and, on the other hand, deviations cannot be corrected by either punishment or example. Man builds himself through working, working with his hands, but using his hands as the instruments of his ego, the organ of his individual mind and will, which shapes its own existence face to face with its environment. The child's instinct confirms the fact that work is an inherent tendency in human nature; it is the characteristic instinct of the human race." (Dr. Maria Montessori, 'The Secret of Childhood', Orient Longman Limited, 195)
Today in the wood shop, I am working on my 4 position router table which will help me in my production boxes. At school, I'll have my 7th, 8th and 9th grade students.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Grace... and form.

Yesterday one of my students made a near perfect candle stick (if perfection is measured on the basis of finish and form.) The amount of pride he felt was amazing to observe. While a more experienced turner might have been able to do it faster and more efficiently, there is something palpable in the excitement of having reached one's goal.

While many parents wonder what their children do in school, mine go home with evidence of their growth.

Our struggle with utility giant AEP/SWEPCO goes on. They submitted a letter to the APSC denying that we had any right to ask for financial compensation for damages or legal fees, even though we saved ratepayers in Arkansas more than half a billion dollars on an unnecessary power line, and even though we have proved  that the power line was never needed in the first place.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

warp and weft, classroom and community...

In a tribal setting, or in a small community, people learn to have a particular expertise. For example, as a resident of Eureka Springs, my focus has been on wood working and education. Earlier in my life, I was the go-to guy if you wanted to have a door made, or a piece of furniture made for your home. The image I held dear was that of the small town craftsman in a community of craftsmen with each having areas of special expertise upon which the whole of community was reliant.

I have written before about linsey-woolsey, a coarse homespun fabric made of linen and wool. The linen provides the strength of the material, and wool provides the warmth of it, and communities are like fabric.You may have heard the phrase, "the fabric of the community." Some folks are woven deeply into the warp and weft. Some are placed like patches on the surface, poorly integrated and will be sloughed off in time. Some never reach a point of integration, for some reason or another. I can give specific examples if you like.

Part of the challenge of education is helping kids to know how they fit in. Learning in Depth is a program that helps children identify their own areas of interest and expertise. For instance one of my students was interested in dinosaurs from pre-school on. At public elementary school his teacher called his mom and told her, "I'm trying to get Wilson to stop drawing dinosaurs all the time." So the mother pulled him out of school to study at home. The stupidity of squelching the child's natural interests and inclinations would have been a grave mistake. When Wilson was looking for a university, he visited at Yale, and attended a lecture on dinosaurs. He learned that he already knew more than was being offered in the class.

Please enjoy the video above. The boy points out something that we should all remember. Crafting is research and a form of exploration through which expertise is developed.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 19, 2015


A micro-soldering mom.
This morning I saved over a hundred dollars by replacing the pipes underneath my kitchen sink. My wife asked, "wouldn't you prefer to call a plumber?" Why, if I could fix it myself?

There is a great website, iFixit, that offers how to fix tips for all kinds of things, and I was intrigued by their newsletter this afternoon, pointing to a soldering mom. You've heard of soccer moms, but have you heard of one who solders? This mom wanted to fix her iPhone, but it involved micro-soldering. She taught herself to do it, and now has a specialized business, fixing things that require her new skill.

Along the same vein, but in a slightly different direction, a friend of mine sent a catalog of Hemslöjd. Hemslöjd means home craft in Swedish. Unfortunately, this catalog is about things you can buy, not things you can make and too little of it is hand crafted. It is important to support those who make by buying their stuff. But it is even more important for each of us to join the community of makers and develop skills in our own hands and minds.

As Salomon said so well, the value of the carpenter's work may be in the  object he or she crafts. The value of the student's work is in the student. Making, fixing and creating are transformational engagements. If the world were full of makers and fixers, it would be a much better place.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

learning in depth...

My hinge slotting machine for barbed, press-in-place hinges is compete and fine tuned to operating condition. It was more work than I expected to get it fine tuned, but hopefully, it will stay tuned and properly set for some time to come.

Learning in Depth should not be confused with "deep learning," which has to do with the development of artificial intelligence. I found myself involved in an email exchange and wondered why I had been included in it. In the past, I had inquired of Kieran Egan about his Learning in Depth approach, and someone felt that either I had something to learn from the exchange  which was about developing appropriate questions to engage kids in learning, or something to add to it.

A few years back, I received a mysterious subscription to Ms. magazine. My first thought was that an acquaintance of the opposite sex thought that I might need some lessons and that the magazine would be necessary for my advancement toward a more meaningful human behavior. That turned out to not be the case. A male friend was helping to raise funds for a woman’s shelter and bought the subscription for me as part of a fundraiser.

So in that thread of email exchanges I had the choice to assume that I was included in it because someone thinks I need to be brought up to speed, or that I might have something meaningful to contribute.

At the risk of wrongfully assuming the latter, I interjected the following:
Manual arts training in the US grew up from two threads. One was that we were entering an industrial age in which hands required training as well as the mind. The other thread was a reaction against “classical education”. Here, think Socrates, the Socratic method and the teacher as the source of questions and testing for right answers. That classical approach was not working to develop the intellectual resources demanded by the growing industrialized/technological age.

Jonathan Baldwin Turner was considered the father of the Land Grant Colleges and said the following in May, 1850:

"...a classical teacher who has no original, spontaneous power of thought, and knows nothing but Latin and Greek, however perfectly, is enough to stultify a whole generation of boys and make them all pedantic fools like himself. The idea of infusing mind, or creating or even materially increasing it, by the daily inculcation of unintelligible words--all this awful wringing to get blood out of a turnip--will, at any rate, never succeed except in the hands of the eminently wise and prudent, who have had long experience in the process; the plain, blunt sense of the unsophisticated will never realize cost in the operation. There are, moreover, probably, few men who do not already talk more, in proportion to what they really know, than they ought to. This chronic diarrhea of exhortation, which the social atmosphere of the age tends to engender, tends far less to public health than many suppose.”

I hope not to insult anyone’s intelligence, or myself by interjecting too much. Bloom’s Taxonomy is like the bible for those involved in Q&A based learning theory, but I think the best of student engagement and performance happens when the students are the source of questions, and teachers offer tools and appropriate testing models through which student self-directed inquiry  and discovery can take place.

It would be pretty much off the wall and out of the box these days for educational theorists to consider learning anything from the manual arts training movement. Otto Salomon, founder of Educational Sloyd, the Swedish system of manual arts stated his theory I find more useful than Bloom’s Taxonomy. Simply put:

Start with the interests of the child.
Proceed from the known to the unknown.
Move in increments from the easy to the more difficult.
Move from the simple to the more complex.
Proceed from the concrete to the abstract.
The thing that made me interested in Learning in Depth is that it recognizes that each child’s interests can be unique and still provide a roadmap for future growth. So toward that end, we need to help students find confidence in asking their own questions, not necessarily to become better at asking our own, except of ourselves.

Make, fix and create...

Bloom's taxonomy...

Click to view large

tax·on·o·my takˈsänəmē/ noun

the branch of science concerned with classification, especially of organisms; systematics. the classification of something, especially organisms. "the taxonomy of these fossils" a scheme of classification. plural noun: taxonomies "a taxonomy of smells"

Bloom's taxonomy was an attempt to systematize and intellectualize an understanding of the learning process. Occasionally, when I've described the Theory of Educational Sloyd as outlined by Salomon, people have said, "That's like Bloom's Taxonomy." The following is from Wikipedia:
Bloom's taxonomy is a way of distinguishing the fundamental questions within the education system. It is named after Benjamin Bloom, who chaired the committee of educators that devised the taxonomy. He also edited the first volume of the standard text, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals.
Bloom's taxonomy refers to a classification of the different objectives that educators set for students (learning objectives). It divides educational objectives into three "domains": cognitive, affective, and psychomotor (sometimes loosely described as "knowing/head", "feeling/heart" and "doing/hands" respectively). Within the domains, learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. A goal of Bloom's taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic form of education.
Bloom's taxonomy is considered to be a foundational and essential element within the education community. A mythology has grown around the taxonomy, possibly due to many people learning about the taxonomy through second hand information. Bloom himself considered the Handbook "one of the most widely cited yet least read books in American education".
I've often tried to introduce my readers to a more easily understood framework for planned learning. It comes from Educational Sloyd, and while very few in education, it being as intellectualized as it is, would be willing to find anything of value as a "take-a-way" from manual arts training, it can apply as a teacher's guide for all things children might learn in school.

Educational Sloyd laid things out as follows:
  • Start with the interests of the child.
  • Move incrementally from the known to the unknown,
  • from the easy to more difficult,
  • from the simple to the complex and
  • from the concrete to the abstract.
I add to this, that the end of all educational endeavors should also be in the concrete expression of knowledge, not left solely in the abstract.

What I would see as an error in Bloom's taxonomy is that it starts with abstract learning, and appears to end at a higher point in the same place. How is "knowledge" to be attained?

When children are engaged right off the bat in doing real things, those real things drive learning beyond the intellectualization of it. My own taxonomy would start and end in the child's concrete creative experience. Bloom's consists of a list of objectives that gives the educator the impression that it is OK to hammer concepts into the child's head. That may seem quite acceptable to those schooled in conventional education, but I would rather see the kid do the hammering. And I suggest that Salomon's Theory of Educational Sloyd gives a more useful grip on curriculum design.

As you can see, my hinge slot cutting machine is complete. It is not as large as it may appear, as it's designed to use on the workbench and to be put away between uses.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

a motor in a box...

I have been working on a dedicated hinging machine for fitting barbed hinges in my small boxes. At this point, I have a motor installed in a box, and a sliding table made for the top. Next comes a fence to position the depth that the blade will cut. This is a seat of the pants engineering operation, but one based on having made many jigs and shop fixtures in the past. I have been gathering the parts for months.

My daughter sent the photo of nuts, bolts and washers from her classroom in New York. Knowing Lucy as I do, I am sure that she also made the small  paper boxes to hold them.

This was a science demonstration for her 7th grade classes. The following is our text exchange about the project:
Lucy: My introduction to the difference between elements and compounds and compounds and mixtures today :) My kids didn't know what bolts, nuts, and washers were.

Doug: That must mean they've never fixed anything, never taken anything apart, and likely never studied things closely enough to understand how things are made. That lesson must have been fascinating for them.

Lucy: True! I doubt they have done much (if any) tinkering. And they like anything that they can play with! They definitely had a better idea of what compounds were by the end of the lesson!

At some point we need to return to schooling in which kids do real things and attain some level of mastery over real world circumstances. Is it enough that they have the skills so readily acquired by monkeys in zoos, to slide fingers over glass and enjoy the visual effects with no real work having been done?

For some of us, having been raised before the digital revolution, knowing how things are made and assembled is a matter of curiosity and of interest. And it seems unfathomable that children on this planet would not enjoy knowing what we know.

If you get kids' hands engaged with the nuts and bolts of creation (let's not forget the washers), they may develop the passion and the confidence to create and the skill to see their creations come to life.

Yesterday, at school, I repaired a scroll saw, which required a trip to the hardware store to find a replacement nut. Then I pulled a pulley off a lathe motor in hopes of getting it ready to fix when a new motor arrives. When doing that, I discovered that I should have heated the aluminum pulley with a torch first.  I damaged it and had to order a replacement part for $7.00.  Without experience, without tools and without a few simple skills, I would have been as helpless as a city kid confronted by a nut or bolt.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, January 16, 2015

tools, turning and form...

An old friend gave me a gift yesterday which I assume is intended for use at school. I have known Vernon for about 39 years and taught his two children to turn on the lathe in my school wood shop. The set of Craftsman lathe tools, in original box are a treasure passed along by his dad.

I called Vernon to thank him, and have assured him that these lovely tools will be used at school, kept sharp and that if his son or daughter wants to use them or claim them in their own lives, they will be available here, held in trust.

On the subject of woodturning, one of my students made a candle stick yesterday for his mom. She wanted a matched set. When he was finished, he asked me how I had gotten my own candle sticks so well polished. That gave me the opportunity to discuss form.

Random shapes lack clear definition of form, present challenges when it comes to finish, and show lack of resolve in the craftsman's intent.

Form is one of those things that can be difficult to discuss with those who have not made personal observations in the development of it.

Square and straight lines can be measured. When I ask students to find the center of each end on stock for turning so that it can be mounted properly in the lathe, their first inclination is to simply mark a line from corner to corner as they have seen me do. But somewhere in the watching, they've missed the fact that I used a ruler to help form straight lines intersecting at dead center.

I ask them to go back and do it over. For how else will they learn? When it comes to form, we have too few words for what we might hope to achieve without going deep into human cultural experience.

What is our purpose here? I have said many times in the blog, that the young woman standing at the lathe is busily shaping self, and refining her form. It is not a matter of the curves of the body, but of the intelligent expression of the body in material form.

Sadly, in Kindergartens now, the focus on reading has pushed all else aside. But Froebel and the followers of educational sloyd knew that the development of form was worth investing in the tools and materials so that children would be empowered by their sense of it.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, January 15, 2015


No, I did not sneeze.
es·chew verb \e-ˈshü, i-; es-ˈchü, is-; also e-ˈskyü\ : to avoid (something) especially because you do not think it is right, proper, etc.

In our nearby town of Berryville, the school superintendent (Dr. Phil Clarke) is beginning to defy conventional authority, and is gathering a committee of teachers, parents, students, and concerned individuals to question the way schooling is done. In the local paper he described his own education and how ill prepared it left him for college. He was interested in science but was taught in a rote manner, that left him ill-equipped for the level of intellectual inquiry he faced upon arriving at college.

At some point, we need to find courage to damn the standards that bind most school administrators, teachers and students to failure in the education of our kids and proceed full steam ahead.

I want to thank Barbara for helping to shed some light on the subtitle of David J. Whittaker's book on Educational Sloyd, "Head and Hands in Harness." I had found the phrase awkward,and anachronistic. Barbara said in an email,
"My parents would always say to me that they had to "anspannen" me, in the extended sense of put me to work, more concretely to harness a horse: "spenne" N or "spænde" D, "anspannen" G, being to tauten or tighten, to brace, strain or tax. Also the noun a buckle: buckle down! "
And so we attempt to buckle or harness head to hands and hands to head, eschew the standards and proceed at a full gallop. Children are hard wired for learning. Give them something to do that interests them and watch them run. But, certainly, it is not actually as easy as that. As teachers, we'd best keep a light hand on the reins, but both hands, never-the-less. There is some quality to be derived relative to the quality of the tools of inquiry and craftsmanship that we place carefully in their hands. The following is from the notes at the back of Dr. Frank Wilson's book about the hands:
The human hand is little better endowed, in a purely material sense, than that of any generalised primate in whom the thumb is present and specialised. In this connection Wood Jones (1941) wrote : “We shall look in vain if we seek for movements that man can do and a monkey cannot, but we shall find much if we seek for purposive actions that man can do and a monkey cannot.” The heart of the matter lies in the term “ purposive actions,” for it is in the elaboration of the central nervous system and not in the specialisation of the hand that we find the basis of human skill.

So as a simple proposal, I ask that we eschew current standards and apply this one. "Ask our children to engage in purposive actions that man can do and a monkey cannot." (Watch the video to see how well monkeys can perform on iPads.)

In my own shop, I've been making a dedicated hinge slotting machine to cut grooves for barbed hinges. The start of it is shown in the photo above, and I guarantee that a monkey could not have conceived it.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Being more careful not to depress...

I was told by a reader that this blog can be rather grim. Yesterday I asked one of my students whether he preferred video gaming to real life. It was a head scratcher for him. And of course in his real life, video gaming plays a large part. Then I asked him which he preferred, video gaming or wood shop, and his answer was without hesitation. Wood shop. Kids know the difference between doing real things and the pretense that we offer them instead.

My point is not to depress my readers with all the things that we are doing wrong, but with how easy it might be to do things right.

Comenius (1592-1670) had said that:
Boys ever delight in being occupied in something for the youthful blood does not allow them to be at rest. Now as this is very useful, it ought not to be restrained, but provision made that they may always have something to do. Let them be like ants, continually occupied in doing something, carrying, drawing, construction and transporting, provided always that whatever they do be done prudently. They ought to be assisted by showing them the forms of all things, even of playthings; for they cannot yet be occupied in real work, and we should play with them. (emphasis mine)
In this statement of easily observable fact, Comenius laid out a simple strategy that we avoid in schooling. He stated the heart of the matter, and the great secret of effective learning. Children learn by doing, and we choose to waste that most natural resource by choosing instead that they do nothing. Our schools attempt stifle their natural inclinations and commandeer the direction of their growth, when those inclinations are our most powerful but wasted resource.Yesterday, our teachers were working with the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students, and their hands-on project in the study of ancient history was to build a model shaduf.

They had struggled with their models the first day, using clay and sticks. I told the teachers they were welcome to make use of the wood shop, and when the kids learned that they had access to tools they nearly bolted out of their class room and into the shop. They could hardly wait to use wood and tools to build what they had already tested in their imaginations.

There is little more joyful than watching children engaged in doing real things, whether it's in the kitchen or wood shop. And the message of this blog may be depressing only if we choose to do nothing about it.

The photos show two different ways of using the non-dominant hand  (in my case left) to hold the lathe tool. The one at the top is using the hand as a fist, which would be described as a power grip. The  second image would be described as a "precision" grip. In this case, the "power" grip is the safer hand position in that it keeps the fingers and thumb safely blocked by the tool rest from engagement with the spinning stock.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2 B of use

We have certainly become a nation of idiots as we pressure children to read at ever earlier ages despite their lack of developmental foundation for it. Defense of the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood have come out with a new report on the damages that are being inflicted on our Kindergarten kids by current practices. Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose.

So what are children to do in Kindergarten if not learning to read? How about learning to get along with each other, and how about learning to work together and be creative members of community life? But then that might be dangerous to our economy in which mindless consumption of the Earth's resources is required.
"When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion."
Read the report in the link above and tell me if we have not become a nation of idiots. In Finland, they start reading at age 8 and by the time children are tested at age 15 in PISA testing, they beat American readers in 30% less time. Does that not make you want to scream?

Today at CSS, my first grade students will learn the values of craftsmanship and community. They are studying what it means to be creative and responsible members of society. 2 B of use. The photo above shows a simple way to chuck a pen blank at the drive end of a lathe.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 12, 2015

a big deal, I guess...

Yesterday we had our celebration of the community's victory over the SWEPCO power line. We had about 250-300 people join us.

As one of the leaders of Save the Ozarks, I could not walk through the crowd without being thanked and praised for my contribution, which consisted largely of writing newspaper editorials, digesting documents, researching legal strategies, communicating with various regulatory agencies, consulting with the legal team, and trying not to do anything overly stupid, and not necessarily in that order.

Back in 2009, I was named an Arkansas Living Treasure for my work as a craftsman and in crafts education. That went largely unnoticed in my community. At this point, due to the battle against SWEPCO's power line, I'm learning how it feels to be a minor celebrity in my own home town.

It has been interesting working at the point of a community wide effort. People have asked if I have advice for others facing a similar power line. My advice: start 30 years ago and build your community through loving engagement with others. The real secret of our success in stopping the power line was that SWEPCO had no idea what they were getting into. One county judge had warned them, "If you want to build this power line, stay as far away from Eureka Springs as possible."

Strong communities have greater power than rich corporations, if  (and only if) the folks within those communities have the confidence and where-with-all to stand up for each other. SWEPCO has been working on plans to build a network of extra high voltage power lines across Arkansas, and has applied to the Arkansas Public Service Commission to spin off their transmission lines into a new AEP subsidiary, Southwestern Transmission Corporation. You can say that Save the Ozarks threw a monkey wrench in the works. Throwing a monkey wrench is a slang expression that refers to sabotage of industrial equipment, or bringing to a dead stop something that has machine like inevitability.

If you want corporations to have their way and the power to industrialize all the wild and open spaces, keep education just like it is, with kids sitting in desks and doing nothing.

The photo above is of my old monkey wrench. It was a gift from my Grandfather Bye when I was about 4 years old. It was old, pretty much useless and worn out when I got it.  I remember when it was new to me, and I found pleasure in how it worked and the sense of power it seemed to convey. Even a worn out monkey wrench when thrown with careful aim is useful for stopping what we think is moving forward with mechanical inevitability. Real tools (even old worn out ones) have the capacity to stir the imagination and awaken the intellect, just as I hope this blog is a tool that stirs yours.

Make, fix and create.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Invitation to a celebration...

Today we are holding a community celebration of SWEPCO's withdrawal of their potentially disastrous power line application. Join us at the Inn of the Ozarks, 2:30 - 5 PM. The Inn of the Ozarks was the place that SWEPCO had chosen for the public hearing by SWEPCO that the Public Service Commission asked them to hold in July 2013. I was never quite so proud of my community as I was for the two days of public hearing in Eureka Springs. Hundreds attended the hearing for the full two days. Almost 400 people took the time to present comments, many of which were eloquently written statements. The room was packed with emotional tension, with SWEPCO's lawyer joking at a table at the front of the room, and an administrative law judge kindly addressing each person and listening to his or her testimony.

It seemed fitting to us that in celebration, we should return to the scene of one of the largest battles.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission claimed that our victory is evidence that their process works. If that was the case, the power line application would have been cut short immediately in response to the serious concerns raised within our community. Citizens addressed the incredible deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Statement and the fact that the power line was obviously not needed in that it would more than quintuple the amount of power delivered to our local area grid.

But they chose not to pull the plug at that time and our small community raised almost $200,000. for legal fees and to pay expert witnesses, simply to prove to the Public Service Commission what our citizens made known to it at our public hearing in July.

I am interested these days in grip. There is a difference between prehensile engagement and non-prehensile engagement in reality. When we ask someone to take control of circumstances in their own lives, we ask them to "get a grip." What happens in the hand, happens also in the mind, and to understand the workings of the mind, we use the hands to provide metaphor. (comprehension: "a seizing, laying hold of, arrest,")

So non-prehensile is like hands on a piano, fingers dancing lightly on the surface of reality. Fingers on an iPad are much the same. Are you getting tired of that funny cat video? Poke it and make it go away.

Let's get a grip on our own lives, and help our chidrren to get firm prehensile engagement in their own lives. During the hearing in Eureka Springs, SWEPCO brought out their big maps, printed on foam board so that their experts could help elderly couples find their homes on the map relative to the various proposed routes. Most came already knowing what the impact of their malfeasance would be and were firmly against, and refused SWEPCO's "help."

We all knew that the power line had been planned carelessly using google maps, fingers traced over glass as engineers, having lost "touch" with reality, would disrupt people's lives without ever having visited them in their homes.

If you think that would have been a good thing, do not introduce children to the joy of making things. There is a difference between the prehensile engagement of mind, and the non-prehensile methods through which we teach children in schools.  On the other hand,

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Today I called Oneway about a lathe that was making a louder than expected noise during operation, and after being run for a short time would not restart without waiting to cool.

I suspected that the problem was in the DC motor, but it is almost a new lathe and should not have problems there. So I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with their technician, and ended up taking the motor off to check the wiring. I found one small wire to be disconnected and loose within the junction box at the rear of the motor.

That loose wire was making the 3 phase motor work as single phase. So it ran, but grumbled loudly, and would overheat the sensors in the control box. With that loose wire reconnected, the lathe works in almost perfect quiet. The great thing is that by fixing it myself, and the fix being so simple, I'll not be waiting for parts to arrive, and the lathe will be working for next week's classes.

dexterous, dexterity... c.1600, "convenient, suitable," formed in English from Latin dexter (see dexterity) + -ous. Meaning "skillful, clever" is from 1620s. Sloyd or slöjd has the same meaning, skilled or clever.

The term dextrous or dexterity comes up because Barbara, who is translating the book by Christian Jacobsen has come across the word håndgrep and has wondered about the exact meaning intended by Jacobsen. That sends me back to Frank Wilson's book about the hand which mentions Napier and his study of the various grips.

According to Napier, hand movements are either prehensile or non-prehensile. What I am doing at this moment with my fingertips on the keyboard, poking letters into the electronic keyboard would be called a non-prehensile movement because it does not involve a grip. As you slide your fingers over the iPad resting in your lap, that also would be non-prehensile. On the other hand, if you were to hold the iPad in one hand and slide a finger on the other,  your hands would be involved in both prehensile and non-prehensile movements, respectively. Napier concerned his important  work The Prehensile Movements of the Human Hand with the study of the movements of the hand that required a grip. So, In antiquarian Danish or Norwegian, his paper could have been called Håndgrep.

Two different grips aare shown in the images above. The upper image Napier would have called a "power grip." The one below might have been called a "precision" grip or a modified pencil grip.

It may be enough for some that their hands be used in no better way than to slide fingers over glass. To do so on an electronic tablet can give an illusion of mastery, as you work with skills already fixed in place within the device. For those who think that real hand skills that exist within the student or within ourselves and our own experience are no longer needed, I suggest, "Get a grip." A håndgrep will do.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, January 09, 2015

A man apart...

There is a new book out about William (Bill) Coperthwaite. Written by Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow, A Man Apart, Bill Coperthwaite's Radical Experiment in Living. Friends of Bill will likely want this book. Special commemorative copies are available at Or copies will be available from towards the end of the month.

Yesterday in wood shop, my students worked on their woodturning. Matthew wanted to make a whistle.

The child's opportunity to make what they want is a tremendous resource.

It is cold here in Arkansas. We are preparing for a regional celebration of our victory over SWEPCO on Sunday, and today I will writing and working at my desk.

Make, fix and create...

Thursday, January 08, 2015

get on the bus...

Most school districts across the US have abandoned their woodworking programs. The idea of elementary school woodworking was abandoned many years before when the Smith Hughes Act of 1917 funded vocational training and helped to create an academic divide between those who were going to college and those who would pursue blue collar work.

At this point so many schools are all screwed up. We have a huge number of college graduates who owe huge student loans and cannot find jobs in the fields where they expected to find ready employment. In the meantime, jobs in high tech industries that require some basic understanding of tools and technology go unfilled because student imaginations have never become acquainted with their creative capacities.

It is time to reinvigorate our schools by giving children something real to do. At this point in time, not many schools have wood shops. Clear Spring School is probably the only one in Arkansas in which children are trusted with real tools.

The woodworking bus or trailer that can be taken to schools, loaded with equipment and staffed with trained teachers is the idea model for a reintroduction of wood shops. On the other side of the continent, in Boston, one of the oldest schools in the US is doing the same thing. Eliot School, founded in 1639 and converted to a manual training school in the late 19th century carries woodworking to Boston Schools in a big box.

I'm trying to get some of my students ready to begin bowl turning and this (in my opinion requires the to become proficient in spindle turning first. A simple candle stick with smooth curvature is a great skill builder. Complex shapes can hide imperfection of technique, so smooth and elegant are best.

Make, fix, and create...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

creative opportunities they all need...

Yesterday we began making abacuses with the first grade students, and selected middle school students began work on the lathe. Others have been working on projects that stem from their own desires and inclinations. In the photo above, my assistant Greg is helping a student guide a power drill to form a tenon on a piece of white pine stock. The children are fascinated as they watch what the tool can do to the wood.

I had visitors in the shop yesterday, Jeff and his son Levi. Jeff is a cabinet maker with long experience, and like many of us has been troubled that the opportunities he had as a kid have evaporated for today's students. He is interested in starting a bus or trailer based woodworking program, so he and Levi are also going to California to visit a not-for-profit bus based  program, Side Street Projects.

The bus or trailer based program allows workbenches, tools and materials to be delivered to schools and birthday parties where kids get the kinds of real creative opportunities they ALL need and that these days, most miss out on.

At one point in American education, it was recognized that learning was an expressive act that involved testing physical reality, instead of absolute passivity being the norm. In today's schooling, teachers bear the burden of assessment, whereas when children do real things, they can see for themselves the quality of their own work.

So, the model that we have created in most schools, where the teacher may have well over a hundred kids and is responsible for grading each child involves a level of paper work that for most can be overwhelming. All of that grading time is taken away from the preparation of meaningful lessons. Parents, not seeing real work as a basis for assessment of their child's learning performance, become obsessed with their child's grades and blame the teacher if their little darlings are not given the honors they think they most certainly deserve and that their futures actually depend upon. It is an illness inflicted upon the American culture.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

knives and lathes...

I've made a simple rack to hold one dozen sloyd knives in their plastic scabbards. It's made of a white pine 1 x 4  with 12 1 in. holes and with legs simply nailed underneath.

It is important with knives that they go in a rack where you can immediately see that they are all put back in place at the end of class. So this simple rack does that job. Twelve holes, twelve knives. I can see at a glance that they are all present and accounted for.

A friend of mine in Denmark had told me that the lathe was one of Salomon's favorite tools for Sloyd, but that it was too expensive for most schools at the time. I was doubtful, and contacted my friend Hans in Sweden who was curator of Salomon's library.

After a bit of research he confirmed that Salomon had reservations about the use of the lathe in educational sloyd. Neither turning nor wood carving "could be recommended from the hygienic point of view." Also, "He did not like to see the pupil standing in one and the same position for a rather long time." Salomon published a chart in 1884 that closely corroborated the one published by Benjamin B. Hoffman. In this chart of the value of various crafts as educational resources he noted the following with regard to the use of the lathe:
  • To gain the child's interest?  Yes.   
  • To give useful objects? Yes.  
  • Does it teach general dexterity of hand? No.  
  • Does it train the habits of order and exactness? Yes.  
  • Does it promote cleanliness and tidiness? Yes
  • Is it in accordance with the child's capabilities and strength?  Yes and No.  
  • Does it promote aesthetic sense? Yes    
  • Does it develop bodily strength?  A little.   
  • Does it counteract sedentary learning? Yes   
  • Does it allow of methodical arrangement? Yes.
Despite these minor objections,  my students love woodturning. They find joy in it. And in addition to building the knife rack to keep track of knives, I am getting the lathes ready for woodturning.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, January 05, 2015

A letter to the Duke of Meiningen

If you are interested in knowing how Friedrich Froebel became a teacher and about his relationship with Pestalozzi you can read about his early biography in a letter he wrote to the Duke of Meiningen. He wrote the letter in hopes of getting the Duke to support a school he hoped to open. It was written years before the invention of Kindergarten, but helps to illustrate the origins of the ideas that came to fruition in the Kindergarten concept. You can find it on Project Gutenberg, available for your choice of reading devices.

I am interested in this book as it helps to illustrate how Froebel's gifts of childhood were drawn from the experiences of his own life, just as our own lives are fabricated upon the diverse experiences we build and encounter.

One thing that is of particular interest was the investment Froebel made in what he hoped would be a possible career as an architect. He had even gone so far as to design a large manor home as a demonstration of his potential. Unfortunately, the plans for this manor house and all the work he had prepared along the architectural line were lost at a crucial time when he hoped to make some necessary steps in furtherance of that career.  Froebel launched himself into teaching instead. Had he become an architect instead instead of a teacher and inventor of Kindergarten, we would not have had Frank Lloyd Wright.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Learning to not believe what you are told.

We are planning a community wide celebration of SWEPCO's withdrawal of their 345 kV power line application, so my wife and I met yesterday with the owner of the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center who is donating the use of the facility as his way of joining in the celebration. This victory for our small town is an amazing thing that you will not likely hear much about. My wife and I got our official letter of notice from SWEPCO yesterday informing us of their application withdrawal. If they had used the route across our property, it would have destroyed a 150 foot swath from one end to the other and would have brought helicopters flying 75 feet from out deck as they administered regular doses of herbicides to keep the forests from ever growing back again.

Naturally, the letter contained no apology. Corporations don't do that. They cannot admit guilt and they have no shame.

There are two kinds of school. Some put students into chairs where they are administered doses of indoctrination. They are told what to believe and are kept passive (drugged if necessary), so that just in case they don't believe what they are told, at least they have no power to test the truth of what they have been told.

Then there are schools where kids do things. In those schools students are expected to challenge what they have been told and expected test the real world through the application of scientific and experiential method. What teachers want students to learn is demonstrated for them not told to them, and experience is restored as the basis of knowledge. Students from such schools are disinclined to allow major corporations to trample on their rights. And they are inclined to question what they are told, and not fall prey to the forces of stupidity. So you can see why we have the schooling we have. It is convenient for those who support of the status quo and are fearful of other views.

You and I know what kind of schools we need, but there are others who disagree. They'd like to run huge power lines and pipelines and industrialize all the wild open places. But just for grins and despite the danger, let's list the qualities of progressive students:
  • They test reality rather than believing what they are told. 
  • They make what they need instead of buying unnecessary stuff. 
  • They learn to accept differences as being normal to the human condition. 
  • And having been freed from indoctrination, they trust their own powers of observation, and are unwilling to be fooled by those who would manipulate and control.
So, I guess you can see the danger of all that in a broad field from religiosity to politics.

Here in Eureka Springs, we were told to believe the power line was necessary for "growth and reliability." We did not believe them and did what many claimed we could not do. We proved that multi-billion dollar AEP/SWEPCO and the Southwest Power Pool were dead wrong. And you may join us in this revolution. The celebration of SWEPCO's defeat will be held here in Eureka Springs, on Sunday, January 11, 3 to 5 PM.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Using stooges to make money

American Electric Power and its subsidiary SWEPCO were itching to make money on the current boom in wind power generation capacity in Oklahoma and Texas by providing a transmission corridor through Northwest Arkansas. So they built the first leg and then planned and proposed the second leg of this network of power lines to go through my home town. In the past, all they had to do was stand "expert" witnesses up before the Arkansas Public Service Commission and they would be granted all that they wanted. They would be backed up by the Southwest Power Pool, which would present studies that would never be fully scrutinized or challenged because citizens and citizen's groups could not afford the expert witnesses to do so.

So we hired the best. Suddenly, the expert witnesses for Southwest Power Pool were put in the precarious position of lying on the witness stand to cover their fictional analysis. They were forced to admit that our expert was correct, then proposed a new equally false rationale and refused our expert witness the opportunity to review their false data.

As a result, the Public Service Commission was put in an awkward position and agreed with us, that SWEPCO had failed to prove that the 345 kV power line they wanted to build was necessary to meet growth and reliability concerns. The APSC asked SWEPCO to go back to the drawing board and gave them another chance to prove their case.

When Southwest Power Pool did the study demanded by the APSC, they came up with a more truthful account, knowing it would be thrashed about by other experts having greater credibility in the field. They acknowledged a 50% reduction in predicted demand growth and that 665 MW of energy demand had been removed from their system. To put 665 MW in perspective, that is an amount greater than the rated capacity of their Flint Creek coal fired generation plant here in Northwest Arkansas to which this power line would have connected.

NERC, the National Energy Regulatory Commission, recommends that grid planning be done on a 5 year window. Anything beyond 5 years is likely to be out of date due to the fact that the power grid is a dynamic thing with a number of operators each having effect on it. SWEPCO based their plans for this power line on a 10 year planning window. So perhaps this malfeasance will pass for an honest mistake resulting from failure to adhere to national planning guidelines. But we have every reason to suspect that what we have been put through was most likely evidence of corruption and greed.

In the meantime, SWEPCO just filed to close their application with no apology for the damage and distress they have caused in the small communities of Northwest Arkansas that they claim to serve.

Please forgive me for interjecting all this drama into the blog. Matti Bergström advised of an impairment he named "finger blindness." It is the result of failure to learn and work through the hands.  He said, "just as the blind cannot see the shape of an object, the finger blind cannot perceive its intrinsic value." Without the engagement of the hands, the real world is left distant and abstract and the substitution of money as the primary value becomes the driving force. Those who are not engaged in hands-on learning, and the cultural values of fixing, making, caring, protecting and creative work become "values damaged," with their field of view narrowed to the point that money and the making of it become the overriding distortion of more meaningful values.

There is a moral lesson in all this. Do not trust American corporations. Their bottom lines rarely consider long standing cultural and environmental values. Do know that a small committed group of individuals can on occasion, make a difference and act bravely and accordingly.

We are wondering at this point whether the Southwest Power Pool and SWEPCO will make some kind of apology to Northwest Arkansas, but to apologize might open questions regarding an admission of guilt and liability.  So that's not likely to come any time soon. For those who love only money, by stopping this power line, and besides retaining the character of our community, we have saved Arkansas ratepayers at least half a billion dollars in unnecessary construction costs, operations and maintenance and utility profits.

Today, we received a letter from SWEPCO informing us of their  withdrawal of their proposed power line. Just as we expected, there was no note of apology for what they have put our community and region through for the last 21 months. Corporate values are not the same as human values and one should never expect humanity to be expressed by the stooges who work only to make money.

Make, fix and create...

Friday, January 02, 2015

Active schooling, desireable dexterity...

Paper tearing takes no tools, just the bare fingertips.
I have been feeling a bit strange. Our battle against SWEPCO has been a part of my daily life for 21 months. To awaken with the opposing army having left the field of battle is an amazing thing, leaving me wondering what I am to do next. Definition of self as active or passive is one of the questions that Shakespeare addressed in Macbeth. "To be or not to be, That is the question." When we are actively engaged in effort, the boundaries of self are clarified, expanded, or shrunken, depending on the situation. Fortunately, I have the wood shop and writing to fall back on and plenty to do in a less contentious direction.

My participation in Save the Ozarks has made me something of a local celebrity in ways my woodworking and writing have not. Wherever I go, I receive attention from those who want to celebrate our victory and offer their congratulations.

Today I have a conference call with the attorney who has handled our legal case. I also have work to do at school to prepare for next week's classes, and writing to do for the book. Somewhere at the back of the mind, I'm moving along and adjusting to a new reality in which the multi-billion dollar AEP/SWEPCO is no longer an immediate adversary.

In her book Primary Handwork, Ella Dobbs explained that her book was not to offer ready-made patterns and that her book was intended to offer a framework useful to teachers.
"The ready-made pattern implies dictation on the part of the teacher and mechanical imitation and repetition on the part of the pupil, -- a process almost fatal to spontaneous effort. While it is possible through a method of dictation to secure results which seem, at first, to be much better than the crude constructions which children are able to work out for themselves, it is only a superficial advantage, and one gained at the expense of the child's growth in power to think and act independently. It is an advantage closely akin to the parrotlike recitation of the pupil who catches a few glib phrases and gives them back without thought, as compared with the recitation of the pupil who thinks and expresses his thoughts in his own childish language."
A similar statement could be made in this blog. My purpose is not to propose a set curriculum for teachers to download into their own classrooms and apply, but to offer a few examples and guidance in how the educational lives of children can be enriched through creative and expressive acts.

As we watch children using high tech devices, fingertips racing over glass, we are fooled into thinking they are doing wondrous things. But are they being fully expressive? Without the ability to break down the machine into its parts for their own manipulation and understanding, what have they truly gained by the use of their fingers to trace parrotlike the limited potentialities of what the machine has been programmed to do?

One of the activities described in Primary Handwork is paper tearing. Dobbs says of it,
"Paper tearing serves many of the same purposes sought in cutting, and has several strong points in its favor. Working directly with the fingertips tends to develop a desirable dexterity of manipulation. The nature of the process prevents the expression of small details and tends to emphasize bold outlines and big general proportions. Working directly with the fingers tends also to prevent weak dependence upon certain tools and tends to develop power to express an idea by whatever means is at hand."
Make, fix and create...